Tom Tit Tot


Tom Tit Tot
   This, one of the most famous English *fairytales, is an analogue to 'Rum-plestiltskin' in the *Grimms' collection. A peasant girl is taken as wife by a king, on the understanding that she will spin five skeins of flax per day for a month, as her mother had boasted she could; a 'small little black thing with a long tail' performs the task for her, on condition that he will carry her off if she cannot guess his *name by the end of the month. By chance he is heard boasting 'Niminy nim-iny not, My name's Tom Tit Tot', so she is able to 'guess' correctly, and the imp disappears. The story was contributed to the Ipswich Journal on 15 January 1878 by Mrs Anna Walter-Thomas, who recreated it in full Suffolk dialect from her memory of how her nurse had told it to her about 25 years before; it has since been many times reprinted, usually with the dialect reduced.
   In 1992 Michael Wilson recorded an excellent variant from a 13-year-old girl in Plymouth, based on how her Liverpool grandmother told it; the task is to spin wool into gold, which is done by 'a little green imp', who a year later takes the girl's baby as the forfeit, but has to restore it when she discovers the name (Wilson, 1997: 255-8).
   ■ Original text in Briggs, 1970-1: A. i. 535-9; Philip, 1992: 111-17. Modified text in Jacobs, 1894/1968: 5-9.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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